Yesterday I posted an article eternally confused over how Kate Winslet could somehow earn an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her role in The Reader and not Revolutionary Road. I looked into the Academy's rules, discussed the politics of it all and made assumptions here and there. The one thing I was missing was the final piece of the puzzle to help solve at the very least the voting riddle. Finally, after some further digging and this article at Variety I have cleared up this Winslet query as far as the voting process is concerned. Let me first give you the two rules I quoted in my article yesterday:
4. The leading role and supporting role categories will be tabulated simultaneously. If any performance should receive votes in both categories, the achievement shall be only placed on the ballot in that category in which, during the tabulation process, it first receives the required number of votes to be nominated. In the event that the performance receives the numbers of votes required to be nominated in both categories simultaneously, the achievement shall be placed only on the ballot in that category in which it receives the greater percentage of the total votes.
5. In the event that two achievements by an actor or actress receive sufficient votes to be nominated in the same category, only one shall be nominated using the preferential tabulation process and such other allied procedures as may be necessary to achieve that result.
The focus should be on the line where it says "preferential tabulation process" in rule #5 above from the Special Rules for the Acting Awards. This is something I didn't quite understand until just now and it clears up my complaints that Kate Winslet's performance in The Reader may have potentially received fewer votes than her performance in Revolutionary Road based on being the first to receive the required number of votes to be nominated. My reading of the rules was lacking some important information on how the Academy counts their votes.
You see, I assumed voters submit their ballots with their list of five nominees for each category (or however many nominees each category had) and then the number of times a film or performance was mentioned determined their voter's score. That's not how it works. In fact voters are asked to list their nominees in order from 1-5, #1 being their first pick obviously. This is then used to begin tallying the votes.
Here's how it goes and I am going to use Timothy Gray's lead at Variety to formulate my example. Gray used the Director's Branch for his example and I will attempt to convert it over to actors to keep with the Winslet question I posed yesterday.
The accountants at PricewaterhouseCoopers assemble the ballots and first determine how many #1 votes an actor/actress needs to earn a nomination. The actors branch has 1,222 voting members and in order to figure out this number they divide 1,222 by six -- i.e., the number of eventual nominees (five) plus one -- which returns 203. They then add 1 to that number and 204 is the number used. This is the number of times an actor/actress must be listed on the voting ballots to earn a nomination, but it doesn't go down the line from 1-5 as you may suspect.
First they look at all the #1 choices on each ballot and put each performance into his/her own stack and once a performance reaches the 204 number they have enough for a nomination and any other ballots voting for that contender are put to the side to ensure everyone's ballot is counted and the process begins with the next name. If, after the first round, there are five contenders who got 204 votes you have your list of nominees. If not they then move to the #2 selections and so forth until five nominations are reached.
In the case of Kate Winslet and her performances in The Reader and Revolutionary Road this means her Reader performance simply received more #1 (and possibly #2) votes than her Revolutionary Road performance and therefore became her nominated performance. Basically the Academy does take the performance with the most votes, it just doesn't do it as I suspected and assumed in yesterday's piece.
This should also help explain why films such as The Dark Knight and WALL•E weren't included as Best Picture nominees. In all likelihood those two films were mentioned on several ballots (maybe even more than The Reader), they simply weren't listed as one of the top -- let's say three -- films of the year on those ballots and based on that it means there were probably already five nominees before they got down to counting the #4 and #5 slots on the voters' ballots.
In all actuality this means rarely does a performance or a movie actually get "snubbed" as Gray puts it. Every single Academy voter could have potentially included The Dark Knight and WALL•E on their ballots, but if they had them both around the #4 and #5 slot then they just weren't counted in the "preferential tabulation process".
Now before you look at this and think how stupid this process is and how it isn't fair and so on, do know this isn't a system the Academy adopted on its own. Australia adopted it as early as 1902 for elections in which there is more than one result. The Academy has been using it since 1936.
The goal of the process is to make sure it works from the top down and it sounds like a pretty reasonable way of looking at it if you ask me, but I am still not sure if I entirely agree with using it since I wonder if the voting members even realize it's how their votes are counted. It also seems weird to me that one film could be listed on every ballot around the #4 and #5 slot and end up not getting a nomination. It's hard to argue either side and one of those situations where you just have to go with what's being used. Nothing's perfect and when judging artistic endeavors it's a tough task to reach a consensus.
To read Timothy Gray's article at "Variety", which I used and quoted in putting this article together click here. I hope this helped clear up things for you after my article yesterday probably confused folks. It's a learning process and something I will never forget.